A Guide to the Bachelor of Health Science Degree 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Students interested in a health care career have a range of majors to consider, including the newer discipline of health science

[Featured image] Woman with laptop computer and notebook taking notes for a bachelor of health science degree.

A Bachelor of Science in Health Science (BHS) typically combines the study of biological, physical, and social sciences, health care-related subjects, and hands-on training, all of which introduce students more fully to the principles—and practice—of health care. 

Some BHS degree holders pursue entry-level administrative roles in health care, such as an assistant clinic administrator or program coordinator. However, many go on to earn their professional degree—such as a Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)—after graduation. In fact, some BHS programs have a pre-med track for students who know they want to be health care practitioners.

A Bachelor of Science in Health Science can provide a foundational education to begin a career in health care, a field expected to grow by at least 16 percent in the next decade [1]. Let’s go over more about the BHS degree, the type of coursework you can expect, and how you can evaluate which program is best for you. 

Learn more: What Should I Major In? 5 Things to Evaluate

What is a BHS degree?

A bachelor’s degree in health science is usually designed for students interested in working in health care in some way, be it as a medical practitioner, administrator, or researcher. Many health care-related roles require an advanced degree, such as a professional or master’s degree, and studying health science can lay a useful foundation before you pursue graduate education. With health science, you’ll also complete a practicum or internship to apply what you’ve learned and gain more practical skills for your career. 

Types of courses 

During the first two years of your program, you can expect to complete a number of general education requirements that all bachelor’s degree programs tend to require. However, during that time, your program may want you to focus more on science and math courses, such as biology, chemistry, psychology, and statistics. 

Once you begin the coursework for your major, classes may include: 

  • Global health

  • Epidemiology

  • Medical ethics 

  • Health care policy

  • Health equity 

  • Anatomy and physiology 

  • Health care management

  • Developmental psychology 

  • Endocrinology

  • Neuroscience

Specializations

Because a degree in health science leads to many career possibilities, programs tend to offer several specializations, or concentrations, so you can tailor your studies to meet your larger career interests. While each school is different, you may find specializations such as: 

  • General health science

  • Occupational therapy 

  • Pre-professional or pre-med 

  • Pre-physical therapy

  • Emerging health technologies

  • Patient care

  • Health care leadership 

  • Global public health 

Practicum or internship

In addition to learning in the classroom, a BS in Health Science often expects students to complete a practicum or internship and apply what they’ve learned in a clinical setting. You may be able to choose from organizations focused on public health, area hospitals or medical clinics, or even international health sites. Typically, you’ll complete your practicum in your final year. 

Length of time + cost

As with other bachelor’s degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Health Science takes between four and five years when you attend full-time. The cost depends on several factors, including whether you study at a four-year public institution or a private institution. During the 2019-2020 academic year, average tuition and fees cost $9,400 at public institutions and $36,700 at private institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) [2].

If you are a US citizen or eligible non-citizen and plan on attending an accredited institution, you can apply for FAFSA, which may help you qualify for financial assistance. Learn more about important deadlines.

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Which BHS degree program is right for me? 

Health science is still a newer area of study at the undergraduate level, so you may find that not every school offers a health science program. As you look for colleges and universities that do, use the following parameters to determine the best program for you. 

Specializations

What you want to do with a BHS can often help determine where you should apply. For example, if you want to go into health care leadership, it’s a good idea to look for schools that offer that concentration within their health science program. 

However, if you’ve already enrolled at an institution that doesn’t offer health science, meet with an academic advisor to discuss your career goals and the best majors to help you achieve them. You can pursue a career in health care with many other majors, such as public health, health care administration, or even nursing. 

Practicum placement

Each school has connections with different local and national organizations, so it may be beneficial to speak with a program advisor before applying and find out your practicum options. Your time as an undergraduate student will ideally help prepare you for life after graduation both through your coursework and the internships you may be able to pursue.  

Online vs. in-person 

Online options for a BHS degree are not as abundant as other majors, but it is still possible to earn your degree virtually, and doing so can provide greater scheduling flexibility. However, given the lab-based nature of your coursework, you may find that a virtual program still expects you to come onsite to fulfill certain components. 

Learn more: 10 Surprising Benefits of Online Learning 

What can you do with a BHS? 

There are three primary tracks you can pursue with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science. Let’s go over each one: 

Entry-level roles: Many BHS graduates go on to work in entry-level roles at hospitals, community agencies, public health agencies, pharmacies, or even research laboratories. Their work may pertain to health services, health care administration, health care information management, or public health. 

Master’s degree: For students interested in health care administration or health care policy, you can find many options with graduate programs such as the Master’s in Public Health (MPH), Master of Health Administration (MHA), or Master of Science in Health Information Management. Each type of degree is tailored to a specific area of study, and with that advanced education, you may find that you qualify for more advanced roles. 

Learn more: What Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health (MPH)?

Professional degree: Students interested in tending to the needs of patients can explore professional degree programs to become a doctor, dentist, veterinarian, physician assistant, physical therapist, or another type of practitioner.

Learn more: Your Guide to Nursing Degrees and Certifications

Next steps 

Learn more about health- and science-related topics with leading universities on Coursera. Enroll for free in the University of Michigan’s Impact of the Environment on Public Health, the University of Chicago’s Understanding the Brain, or Duke University’s Introduction to Chemistry. The University of Michigan also offers a Master of Science in Population and Health Sciences, where you can learn from world-class faculty at your own pace. 

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Article sources 

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Handbook: Healthcare Occupations,   https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.” Accessed April 19, 2022

2. National Center for Education Statistics. “Tuition Costs of Colleges and Universities,  https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76.”  Accessed April 19, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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